When cat owner Bethany Hart, 35, of Farmington, Mich., moved to a new home last year, she decided to let her curious tabby cat Cleo explore the landscape. "I thought he would circle the house and come back in," she remembers. "But an hour later, he was nowhere to be found. When he finally came back late that night, his ear was bloody and mutilated from a fight with another animal. I took him to the veterinarian to treat the wound, and I haven't let him out since."
L.A.-based cat behaviorist Marva Marrow, along with The Humane Society, endorses Hart's decision to keep her furry friend inside. "Cats are curious, and they like bathing in the sun, but you can satisfy both those needs by making sure they have a window to look out of and a sunny space on the floor to stretch out. These allow cats to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors safely." Below, Marrow explains the five best reasons to keep your cat in its rightful place -- your home.
Cars Not only are outdoor cats regularly hit by cars, but they also get into trouble when seeking shelter on top of tires and close to engines. "In the cold, cats will crawl into any open space in a car," says Marrow. "If someone gets in and turns the car on, it can be deadly for a cat."
Chemicals Suburban lawns are often sprayed with pesticides and are therefore not ideal stomping grounds for your feline. The chemicals can make your pet ill. Cats that eat poisoned rodents or ingest other toxins from dumpsters or garages can also become very sick. "Cats are very attracted to antifreeze," says Marrow. "They like to lick it, and it can kill them."
Coyotes Maybe there are no coyotes roaming the outskirts of your yard, but any animal can be a danger to your cat, from dogs and raccoons to their own kind. Cats get into trouble upon entering yards patrolled by canines, and they are also prone to fighting with other neighborhood cats. "Cats are very territorial, and they can be wounded in fights with other cats. They can wind up with abscesses and become deathly ill," says Marrow.
Strangers Hard as it is to believe, not everybody is a cat lover. If your pet's path crosses the wrong neighbor, it may be in danger if that person decides to spray it with a cleaning agent or worse. Just as you wouldn't leave your cat in a stranger's care, you should be wary of letting it interact willy-nilly with people you don't know.
Confusion While cats are famous for their sense of direction, kitties that are injured or scared can lose their bearings and become lost. Their access to your home can get blocked, such as by rush hour traffic, or they may be unable to get down from a high place, like a roof or a tree. "The cautionary tale of the cat rescued by firemen is not a myth!" emphasizes Marrow.
Your cat's home is its kingdom, and the outside world is full of threats to its health and happiness. To keep your cat from making a break for it, make sure open windows have screens, teach your family to be alert to Fluffy's whereabouts before opening doors, and use a kitty crate to transport your cat back and forth from the vet. Remember that an indoor cat can't miss what it's never had. Says Marrow: "That's why I don't recommend walking a cat on a leash."
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